Sunday, September 11, 2011

"When it Happened..."


...I was working the night shift in those days. Eleven to seven. The kind of lifestyle only a vampire or a night owl could fully appreciate.

My oldest was nearing his fifth birthday, his younger brother still in diapers, stumbling about on a set of knobby knees, and a belly that prevented him from seeing what his toes looked like.

On this particular morning, a day playing host to a cloudless sky so blue, its beauty boasted the strength to cause even the most disgruntled of my coworkers to pause in wonder, I was asked to stay over an hour or two in order to catch up on the day's workload. I grudgingly agreed.

The drive home proved uneventful. Indian Summer was in full swing, the sun's glare squeezing tears from a set of eyes that were desperate for a warm bed in a dark room, a rarity at the time.

A flock of geese flew overhead, their 'V' formation pointed toward South Beach. I figured they probably had a month to spare before the winds grew wicked, and they'd be forced to ride out the inevitable winter storm.

I can remember the steady flow of traffic in my exhausted state. A young mother pushing her toddler on the sidewalk, a set of tiny velcro-strapped shoes poking out of a hooded stroller.

I remember sitting at a red light, and despite my fatigue, rather enjoying the morning commute.

And I remember turning on the radio, listening to the a.m. headlines...

The television was already on when I burst through the front door. My wife, who rarely watches much TV to this day, was standing before the screen, her mouth agape. She offered me a glance, an index finger drawing my attention to the source of her shocked expression. I joined her in the living room, the two of us standing before the television, watching as billowing smoke and plumes of fire burst from a building in New York City.

At our feet, the boys had awakened, one of them already whining for breakfast, the other simply concentrating on placing one foot in front of the other without losing his balance. On this day however, their needs were not tended to with the normal promptness that they'd grown accustomed to receiving.

"They're not sure what happened," my wife said. "Maybe a bomb or something."

"It's all over the radio," I said.

"It's all over everywhere," she said.

And as we watched, standing before our television on that sun-filled autumn morning, an airplane entered the corner of our screen. There was a moment of confusion, no more than a second at most, as the jetliner angled its descent, pointing its nose at the second building.

I sucked in a breath, and by then it was over.

A tug on my pant leg caused me to glance down at my son, using my frozen posture as his support beam. He considered my shocked expression, giggled as if the world had not changed forever only a moment earlier, and then continued on his way, one step at a time...

That's where I was when it happened. Where were you?

El

16 comments:

Melissa Pearl said...

Wow - I remember that chilling morning as well.
My husband and I had been married for only 2 weeks. We woke up that morning to a phone call to turn on the TV.
The rest of the day was a blur, wiping constant tears from my eyes and having to go into school and help a classroom full of shell shocked kids cope with the terror happening on the other side of the planet.

Sarah Pearson said...

Elliot, even when writing about something so terrible, there is something beautiful about your prose.

Thank you for sharing.

Carolyn V said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing.

We were on a family vacation to Disneyland (which was closed for good cause). It was a very eery feeling that day when all of the coast spent the day in shock.

Cynthia Lee said...

I was sitting at my desk at work. A girl who worked beside me stood up and said that planes were attacking the "Empire State building."

I remember listening to the news in my boss's office. We were both in tears.

I'll never forget that day.

The Golden Eagle said...

Thank you for sharing.

My mom and I were in the hospital, since my grandmother was there at the time; all I remember is that people were crowding around the TV. But it's a clear memory--I wouldn't have thought I'd remember it at all, since I was young.

DEZMOND said...

I was at home, and watching this on news I immediately thought of countless buildings, houses, schools, bridges, and thousands of men, women and even kids and babies that Americans killed in my country back in '99. I also felt pain for Muslim people because I knew right then that Bush would invade Afganistan or Iran or Iraq again after this :( using it as an excuse to put his control over oil rich countries :( I also felt pain for innocent US people who died in these towers :(

Elliot Grace said...

...its amazing how the mind works, how one can find it difficult remembering the lunch menu only a few hours earlier, but when tragedy strikes, the memories are forever embedded in the soul, to be awakened once a year, and remembered.

Thanks guys for your input :)

El

Jemi Fraser said...

I was at school and didn't hear about it until recess. I remember the shock. We all (staff) hurried to the school's only tv to find out. It is a moment I'll never forget. My heart continues to break for everyone.

allie said...

You have a knack for storytelling, injecting such passion into this story.

I remember watching the news with my Dad in the living room of his house. Such an unbelievable, shocking act.

A beautiful post.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

America has had too many "I remember when I first heard" moments. Mankind is anything but kind, Roland

Christine Danek said...

I was at a meeting and I didn't know about it till later. I tried for a while to get a hold of my husband and went home early. My boss thought it would get worse since we are close to Philly.
Amazing what you remember.
Beautiful post.

Flying high in the sky.... said...

...i was in my hostel, back from work.. it was evening here... beautifully written post..

Rachel Morgan said...

Your account of that day gave me chills...
I live in South Africa so it was afternoon here and we'd just got home from school. I remember a similar scene of standing in front of the TV in shock...

allie said...

Hi Elliot.

I've just popped back to let you know I've nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogger award. If you'd like, you can stop by my blog to see what this award is, and pick it up.

Thanks.

Elliot Grace said...

...thanks everyone for offering your own memories from such a tragic day.

El

Adeeva Afsheen said...


Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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